Can Light & Dark be measured in the human psyche?

Humanity has been struggling to understand good and evil since the beginning of time. What are the light and dark attributes that exist within everyone?

Over the years, there has been an extensive amount of research and conversation regarding the Dark Triad, a set of characteristics often deemed malevolent. With that said, hese attributes are typically distributed throughout the population – e.g., you can score low, medium, or high – and are completely indicative of normal functioning.

But in 2019, a groundbreaking study was performed to create the Light Triad, an empirically discernible set of characteristics that, in combination, have substantial implications for the bright side of life.

J.R.R. Tolkien Quote

The Light Triad

1. Faith in Humanityㅡ "Generally speaking, humans are good."

2. Humanismㅡ "Humans across all backgrounds are deserving of respect and appreciation."

3. Kantianismㅡ "Others should be treated as ends in and of themselves, and not as pawns in one’s own game."

Credit: Scott Barry Kaufman, David Yaden, Elizabeth Hyde and Eli Tsukayama

The Dark Triad

1. Machiavellianism - A tendency to exploit others for one’s own gain

2. Psychopathy - A disregard for other's feelings.

3. Narcissism - A heightened focus on oneself.

Main characteristics of the Dark Triad personality traits Source: D'Souza (2016).

What is the correlation between the two?

The average balance score for the entire sample of thousands of test participants was 1.3, indicating that the average person's daily patterns of thoughts, behaviors, and emotions are skewed toward the light rather than the dark.

As this scatterplot illustrates, extreme malevolence is relatively uncommon in the general population:

"The Light vs. Dark Triad of Personality: Contrasting Two Very Different Profiles of Human Nature," by Scott Barry Kaufman, David Yaden, Elizabeth Hyde and Eli Tsukayama, in Frontiers in Psychology, March 12, 2019

Where do you stand?

1. Studies show that everybody has attributes of both light and dark.

2. Take the test below to check in and see where you're at in the balance.


Paulhus., D. & Williams, K.. (2002). The Dark Triad of Personality: Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and Psychopathy. . Journal of Research in Personality Volume 36, Issue 6, Pages 556-563.
Kaufman, S. B., Yaden, D. B., Hyde, E., & Tsukayama, E. . (2019). The Light vs. Dark Triad of Personality: Contrasting Two Very Different Profiles of Human Nature. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 467. .

Phew, I'm in the light! I tend to be of the belief that people are inherently good, and though we're all vulnerable to stressors and triggers that can cause us to react poorly in the moment, in general the light in people tends to override the dark. I also believe we are all capable of dipping our toe into the proverbial dark side -- humans are complex and multi-faceted individuals. Dynamics in relationships can either foster our light or provoke our dark. I believe the big difference is some people exercise awareness and mindfulness in their thoughts and behavior, and adjust accordingly, and some people react to their dark side without awareness or even a realization (or care) that their actions need correction. Such an interesting concept!

Love, love, LOVE the test at the end of this article! According to the test, I tend 82% more toward the light triad than the dark triad and am 53% lighter than the average person. Interesting!

To be able to effectively manage and mitigate a psychopath, narcissist or machiavellian person it is important to understand what they are and that some individuals are just more prone to exhibit these behaviors than others.

I’m a half glass full type of person, so I see people as mostly good than bad, but not naively so. I took the quiz.  I’m in the light haha.  Wouldn’t this be a perfect mandatory quiz to take on all dating sites? Seriously could save a lot of people’s time.

Haha, I love this idea! As someone who spent many years on dating sites, I would find this incredibly helpful!

The dark triad is not something I have seen before, it makes a lot of sense. Off to take the test!

The John Steinbeck quote is incredibly simple and profound.

This was very enlightening, and there was some great insight when I took the quiz myself. Based on these results, I'm 65.67% more toward the light triad than the dark, and I am 36.6% lighter than the average person. This was a very interesting quiz. While everyone would like to be part of the light triad, I would be very suspicious of anyone's results who didn't have a mixture of both. To be completely one or the other, regardless of which one, it means that someone didn't take the quiz seriously and they weren't sincere.

I think the research shows that all normal humans have a mixture of both; but when there's more of one triad than the other that means there some kind of personality dysfunction. It's human nature to be mix of both, but not to the extreme.

I do believe for the most part that Generally speaking, humans are good. Although lately we are seeing something a bit more of contrary. I also think that this pandemic has brought out the evil of many.

The older I get the more I see the darker in many.